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Discipline or punishment; every parent’s dilemma

The first time your child does something not so angelic catches every doting parent off-guard. “Children today are said to be more rebellious and disobedient.” Carol Njeri Gitari, a leading psychologist based at The Karen Hospital and Hermitage Garden notes.

Gitari who has gained unique insight working with various TV and radio stations warns against society’s dangerous generalisation of this vastly complex situation. “However, increase in rebellion might be exaggerated due to isolated cases being widely publicised on media platforms, alerting others who try it out in a bid to conform.”

Our memories are still fresh with the students who while travelling home for the August holidays were recently arrested, allegedly intoxicated and having sex in a bus. People took to social media blaming today’s parenting style.

Many claimed that during their days, they could not get away with what today’s children get away with. Public opinion blames such wild incidents on lax and deteriorating parenting techniques that allow children to break the rules with shocking boldness and bask in rebellion.

Gitari gives us an insight on the Why, What and How of discipline: Factors for rebellion and disobedience “A number of factors have changed as opposed to previous generations that could have led to the current generation’s troubles.

In the past, a child belonged to the entire village and he would usually be disciplined by any available adult. Today, you will hear parents threatening dire consequences on anyone who dares to discipline their child in their absence.

Increased societal pressure and competition leads to long school hours and less time for play. This not only weakens child-parent bonding but denies the kids the benefits of playing like, developing social skills,” says Gitari.

Keep calm (Choosing discipline over punishment) Adult disciplining of children should be designed to help children engage better with others and to correct or control their behaviour in order to fit into society.

Rules should be clearly set and the consequences of breaking each clearly explained beforehand.” Gitari explains. The standoff that comes after the ‘crime’ is crucial to your child’s development and future behaviour as it sets a precedent dictating how future situations will be handled.

“Before disciplining, ensure you are calm; look for the why behind behaviour and encourage the child’s cooperation and understanding for them to take it as a learning opportunity.”

Why corporal punishment often fails Corporal punishment in the African context has long been considered an acceptable and preferred means of punishment. Gitari clarifies why sparing the rod may save your child and your conscience.

“Psychologists do not recommend corporal punishment mainly because despite appearing to achieve instant behaviour modification, it has long term detrimental effects. It does not facilitate learning, instead, it halts the unwanted behaviour only in the guardian’s presence, or scaring the child into submission.”

“Children who have been disciplined through corporal punishment suffered long-term aggression and antisocial behaviour characterised in different traits through to adulthood. Physical discipline teaches children violence is acceptable for conflict resolution.

It also increases anxiety and fear, lowers self esteem, and increases rebellion and aggression. There is also a possibility of physical injury and alienation from guardians.” Better ways to instil lasting discipline Gitari advises parents to ensure that their children understand why a certain action is wrong and how it affects their lives.

“Children who are taught to rely on their judgment rather than their parents grow into responsible adults who are self-reliant, respectful and self-controlled.

This is best achieved through positive disciplining techniques. Be clear about the rules and explain the natural consequences of disobedience.

For instance, a child who doesn’t dress warmly gets ill and the logical consequences are that the ill child cannot go out and play with other kids.” “Other modes of disciplining that leave lasting impressions are withdrawal of privileges tied to the unacceptable behaviour; for instance, taking away toys you find strewn around the house.

Model good behaviour by doing what you want your kids to do.” Also, do not be the kind of parent who never notices anything positive the kids do. Reward them for good behaviour in appropriate proportions, taking care not to bribe.

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